Booty and Beauty: The Fine Line of Cultural Appropriation

“What would America (and the world) be like if we loved black people, as much as we love black culture?” – Amandla Stenberg

The fashion industry is fierce. It’s tough, sets unrealistic expectations and leaves you staring at yourself in the mirror just that bit longer, wishing you had a smaller this and bigger that. We’ve always been one’s to take bits and pieces that we love from the catwalk and parade them around the streets of our neighbourhood. But what happens when we start taking bits and pieces from people’s culture and traditional dress to jazz up our outfits? You my friend, are engaging in cultural appropriation. 

Cultural appropriation is ‘the adoption of elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group, especially if the adoption is of an oppressed people’s cultural elements by members of the dominant culture.’ (Frew, 2015).

Black cultural appropriation by celebrities: Kylie Jenner, Miley Cyrus and Christina Aguilera
Black cultural appropriation by celebrities: Kylie Jenner, Miley Cyrus and Christina Aguilera

The issue here is power. And moreso ‘post-colonial power’ (Nicklas & Lindner, 2012). The dominant or ‘normal’ culture is free to appropriate what they want, whereas the ‘minority’ or ‘marginalized group’ is left with significant cultural forms of expressions, being worn by white girls at music festivals. Cultural appropriation is dangerous and damaging. According to Everyday Feminism contributor, Maisha Johnson, it ‘trivialises violent historical oppression, let’s privileged people profit from oppressed people’s labour and perpetuates racist stereotypes.’ It’s no lie that the dominant or ‘normal’ culture in the mainstream media and society is a white, middle class man or women. And what gives us the right to take something significant from another culture, make it ‘cool,’ and only once a white person adopts it, is it widely accepted?

Everyday Feminism: explains how it is. Source
Everyday Feminism: explains how it is. Source

‘Marginalized groups don’t have the power to decide if they’d prefer to stick with their customs or try on the dominant culture’s traditions just for fun’ (Johnson, 2015).

Native American headresses have slowly been banned at various music festivals. Source
Native American headdresses have slowly been banned at various music festivals. Source

We’ve come to accept that cultural appropriation regarding some items of clothing such as the Native American headdress as unacceptable as it is disrespectful of Native American history, traditions and oppression. It has already been banned at Montreal’s Osheaga’s Arts and Music festival and other major music festivals like Coachella have been encouraged to follow suit. So if we realise that we should show ‘respect and honour’ towards First Nation’s people in Canada and America, when will this translate to bindis, cornrows, grills, henna and any other ‘desirable’ or ‘exotic’ cultural traits.

Nicki Minaj flaunting her booty. Source
Nicki Minaj flaunting her booty. Source

It even extends to the whole, Booty craze sweeping the world at the moment. Sure, Queen B sang about it back in 2001 with Bootylicious, it’s only within the past year or two that the rise of the booty has exploded across the fitness scene. Now you can’t scroll through Facebook or Instagram without ‘how to get a bubble butt, #girlsthatsquat, big booty bitches…’ ANYTHING related to how apparently now it’s trending to have a big booty.  This can extend from the ‘appropriation of African American culture, occurring as a result of the dominant culture’s fetishistic desire to consume blackness and to relegate the black body. They’re objectified and can leave the individual psychologically and emotionally damaged.’ (Bailey, 2012).

Alex Wek. International super model who speaks openly about her struggles as a black model coming from a South Sudanese/British background. Source
Alex Wek. International super model who speaks openly about her struggles as a black model coming from a South Sudanese/British background and also encourages individual beauty of the mind, heart and soul. Source

I’m not writing this to accuse people of being racist, or to depict anyone in any single way. We’re all different and have different experiences in life. However, being a white woman born in Australia, I have to acknowledge the extreme privilege that I have. I’m not trying to exclude myself from this either. I’ve worn saris and bindis to dress up parties and been to the gym and maybe hashtagged #thatass before. I’m also not trying to say that these traits can only ever belong to that cultural group. But I think it’s important to be educated and understand the history and significance these actions can have on others before doing so. I believe that the power I do have should be used to discuss these issues so we can attempt to empathise, empower and create change. If we continue to turn a blind eye to casual racism and cultural appropriation, especially regarding beauty, then we will only continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes.

So to answer the question at the beginning of this blog post, I believe the world would be a much better place if we loved people from all over the globe equally for who they are and not for what we can take from them.

*

References

Bailey, C 2012, Fight the Power: African American Humor as a Discourse of Resistance, The Western Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 36, No. 4, University of Missouri

Frew, C 2015, Othering, blackface, appropriation and #blacklives matter, Lecture Slides, University of Wollongong, 14 August

Johnson, M 2015, What’s wrong with cultural appropriation? Everyday Feminism, June 14, http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/cultural-appropriation-wrong/

Nicklas, P, & Lindner, O (eds) 2012, spectrum Literaturwissenschaft / spectrum Literature : Adaptation and Cultural Appropriation : Literature, Film, and the Arts, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, DEU. Available from: ProQuest ebrary. [14 August 2015].

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/05/cultural-appropriation-in-fashion-stop-talking-about-it/370826/

TED Talks to Lighten Your Day

http://www.ted.com/playlists/225/talks_to_get_you_through_your

Do you ever get that flat feeling? Where you lay in bed for an extra 15 minutes contemplating life, with little to no motivation to get up? Or you have some reoccuring thoughts along the lines of ‘why am I here?’ Then the above link is for you!

All of the videos are inspiring, motivating, address difficult and strange issues that each of us face at some point in our lives. Definitely check it out for a burst of happiness and kick ass motivation!

xxx A

68243be24d78b3868197e8d65c39fc30

(un)Naturally Beautiful

http://www.cosmopolitan.com.au/beauty/skin/2015/5/this-photoshop-video-proves-beauty-campaigns-are-totally-unrealistic/

I know we’ve all seen the extreme differences between photoshopped and unphotoshopped photos, with the before generally looking fatter, lumpier, redder, wrinkler (or any other adjective associated with being ‘ugly’). However, this recent before and after on Cosmo got me owning my skin.

photoshop-(1)

Ever since I was 11 years old I’ve had acne. For 10 years! That’s a bloody long time to feel insecure about your face that you show to the world every day. And now, whilst I’m approaching adulthood, I still have acne scars, pimples and imperfections. Yes you heard it here, believe it or not I’m not actually perfect. However, seeing this advertisement/the photoshopping of it was actually quite reassuring for me. Whilst I know within myself that photos for high fashion magazines etc are photoshopped, it’s quite overwhelming and some what depressing being constantly bombarded with images of beautiful women with clear skin. In the before picture, the model’s skin isn’t even bad! It’s just not ‘desirable.’ I feel that more models should embrace their flaws and imperfections and have a more positive influence on young people across the globe.

Peace and pout x

source http://www.etonline.com/photo/2014/09/24103358/640_beyonce_newest_thigh_gap.jpg
Even Beyonce is guilty of some photoshopping! source 

Flirting with Feminism

This clip is an incredibly insightful, confronting and enlightening discussion between a variety of women who have varying views of feminism. From not identifying as a feminist due to feminism being targeted at middle class white women, the forward motion of feminism and how it needs to include women of colour, transgender women and disabled women, to feminism being more than an individual happiness and needs to be a collective movement, to not wanting a definition because definitions by nature are limiting and the feminism movement must continue to be dynamic and fluid, all of these women’s views are equally interesting and informative.

maxresdefault

A part of the discussion which really challenged my preconceived ideas of feminism is the idea of femism being so much more than individual acceptance and behaviour. How it not ok to make personal decisions and behave in a way that you deem ok and excercising a right of freedom to make those decisions, where those decisions can have adverse affects on women kind as a whole. I guess this brings in the whole ‘not asking for it’ movement which despite what a woman wears – whether it be jeans, jumper, bikini, bra, shorts, crop top or a dress – she’s not asking for it (IT being sexual abuse). I completely agree with this movement and believe that regardless of what a woman wears despite how ‘slutty’ or ‘provocative’ it may appear, she does not deserve any mistreatment or abuse. However, are individuals, especially those of power like Miley Cyrus who do wear provocative clothing really contributing to woman kind in a positive way? Yes, individuals like Miley Cyrus are excercising their right to make their own decisions and wear what they want to wear, but in the long run, is it undermining the very notions of feminism as a collective movement?

I guess we are in this world together and we as a society should act upon the interest of that society, however at the end of the day, all we really have are ourselves. Is it ok/justified to do what you want and to make your own decisions based on your individual wants/needs, OR, should we change our frame of mind and act/make collectivistic decisions based on the success and liberation towards woman kind as a whole? I can’t make that decision for women everywhere, but I do know that it is important to maintain the key values of feminism in our every day lives and fight against injustice.

xxx A

Real Romance Films

I love a good romantic film. But what I love even more are romantic films which are real, raw and relatable.

http://hellogiggles.com/movies-totally-get-love-right/

I’ve only seen a few of the movies mentioned in this article but they’ve all been added to my ever growing list.

Another film I’d recommend (as part of the Before… trilogy) is Before Sunrise. It’s one of my favourite films EVER and I’d highly recommend it to those hopeless romantics who love to travel.

Happy watching

xxx A